Froge is Writing a Book!
Alright, alright. You all know what time of the year it is: the monthly reset. Anybody who’s followed me over the past few months knows that I live by life by the month, starting up a new project as the season comes by, and devoting a heck of a lot of time to that project. I did it when I failed to write a novel during Froghand’s July season, I started up the Degenerates on the same date as 10kB (2017 – 02 – 01), and Kratzen started publishing since April. I’ve spent four months on this website, two months on 10kB, and Froghand for damn near nine months. It’s tradition to take a step back and say to yourself: “what greater good can I do to the world that I’m not doing now?”. Or, in lieu of that, creating Phoenix Wright fanfiction and calling it a novel. Self – burn, oooh…
Unlike with 10kB, I most certainly have not said my piece with this blog, and I’m not putting it on hold like I did 10kB. Massive, massive hold, I would say, though 10kB really did produce so much beauty that I just can’t bear to get rid of it. I still have my editing chops, and I’ve learned even more about digital art since that project (including the ever – important adoption of certain free culture philosophies). But sometimes you do something for so long, even as you find so much enjoyment and pleasure out of doing it, you have to stop yourself from treating it an as obligation rather than a privilege. It’s true that hard work is what makes good men, but it really can be a chore to slog through writing knowing that you’re not putting your best foot forward on something that provides so much guidance for so many people, even if it’s just through the medium of video games.
So I’ve decided to take a little detour and announce a new project: a book about level design! Yeah, fitting, isn’t it? The Zero Punctuation guy wrote space sci – fi epics, but no, I get to write about levels. In all seriousness, the book’s going to be a in – depth inspection of the æsthetics, philosophy, and player reactions to custom Super Mario Brothers levels that I produce specifically for the book, featuring lavish and bombastic typography and material design, published as a digital novel to online storefronts. I can’t say much more about the concept without having it be a massive red flag saying “copy my idea before I get around to it!”, but even then you know I’m one of the best writers and designers online today, and that skillset will let me produce a hell of a better product than any theoretical copycat.
Why produce this now?
Because websites are fun, and everything I’ve done has been liberating to the point where I can say anything and not feel like I’ve gone against community norms, though if all I have to show out of my career is just a few personal projects, then I haven’t made much at all out of it. Kratzen has been an odd duck out of my Neocities tenure: it doesn’t have the 100,000 views like Froghand, nor the consistent popularity of 10kB which has been gaining tens of thousands of views even after its hiatus. Even though I’ve been actively promoting it on Itch.io to the point where so many of my Google results point to my comments on Itch, it hasn’t earned any more than 15,000 views in four months, which is 5,000 less than 10kB pulled in two. I could take this to mean nobody is interested in indie games reviews, or even writing in general, but then I wonder why Froghand was so hecking popular?
I haven’t changed — at least, not much. I stopped swearing so much, out of the finding that swearing distracts from a message rather than enhancing it, but the same cheeky attitude and sly – sick humour has remained intact. In fact, looking at Froghand’s articles is like looking at a self – parody turned up to eleven! To appropriate TV Tropes: are they Old Shames? Of course not. I can look at those works way back when and feel the same things I felt when writing them in the summer haze and winter chill… especially that legendary Valve article. I also hear The Beginner’s Guide review was damn good, but my personal favourites remain the Bojack Horseman and Haruhi Suzumiya reviews, writing all about them episode – to – episode, experiencing them along with my audience. You just don’t get those special editorials anymore. Man, imagine when I had the privilege to write those 12,000 – word mega – articles. Dunkey doesn’t count!
But even as my projects maintain consistent quality, they still aren’t notable to anybody outside my special little band of cultists, because we all know I’m just a Jim Jones wannabe at heart. Haha, maybe one day I’ll reveal the horsefucker who libeled me like that, but you can easily figure it out with some sleuthing, so why bother? I want to break out into greater things, earn money off of what I’m doing, and be able to provide even greater and greater content to you through hiring writers as excellent as me, and building a company that cares as much about this silly, silly world as I do. I don’t know if one of my problems is that nobody believes that I really want to leave my legacy, “even if it’s just a scar on the fabric of everything that ever existed”, but one doesn’t do this shit for months on end, writing a million words, just looking to cash out. There are easier industries to waste your time in: I could practice furry porn for the coming year and get a licence to print money! But I’m a writer because I believe, most of all, that all art owes its debt to words, and my mastery over them are what change the world for the better even more than what words can hardly describe.
What about the design?
I’m doing this book because I want to flex my artistic muscle and make some beautiful non – fiction, some tangible non – fiction, and have it be something else I can point to and say “I did that”, and have it be further proof I can contribute great things if I but have the means to try. And I do have the means: all I need is a copy of LibreOffice and a storefront and I’m ready to go. It’s not something so professional to the point where it’s my profession and it’s going to make or break my career. In fact, if I ever write something deliberately stilted and awkward to read, I’ll wonder what I’m even doing being a writer! The same drive which made David Ogilvy put his best foot forward in “Confessions of an Advertising Man” is the same drive I’m trying to emulate in the rest of my work. He is the only author whose words I’ve re – written in an attempt to analyse what makes them tick. He is brilliant.
In addition to prosaic brilliance, I am also attempting to reaffirm yours truly as someone who has some claim to being called a designer. As a technical artist, I’m bloody awful; don’t look at anything that isn’t hacked together, because it isn’t a pretty sight! But as a material designer? I know all that garbage that artists learn about, like composition, colour theory, intuitiveness, cohesion, and so on. I don’t know enough about them to teach an entire course about it, for instance, but I know enough to provide the same practical advice that your grandfather might give you. To paraphrase a writer who was very clever, but had prose as organic as a twinkie, “the difference between the right colour and the wrong colour is the difference between ambrosia and clown vomit”.
This is among other gems such as “design the largest part of your page first”, “serif is universally easier to read”, “always include cute, marketable mascots”, and “style doesn’t beat substance, so adding style to substance makes you special”. Although I don’t believe in nonsense such as “drawing the viewer’s eye” (though being autistic means I look down all the time anyway), I do believe that the core of design is to predict what the viewer wants to accomplish, and make that as hassle – free as possible. Your program exists to serve the audience: deliberately screwing them over makes you either as malicious as the ultracapitalist, or as incompetent as the Chinese content farm that will be outsourced to replace you. Indeed, the UNIX philosophy applies in full force: do one thing well, and if it doesn’t do that thing well, make a different thing that does.
As for the book? You’re going to see bright, poppy Mario motifs, with the page numbers underground and the headers in the sky, flanked by familiar prop dressings, with typography that reflects its character (I’m thinking Computer Modern, eh?), and a cohesion that reminds you of those really cool, really well – designed instruction booklets that rarely lives up to the hype you felt reading them way back when, like the WarioWare DIY manual. It’s about creating things that, practically, don’t need to be so chipper and “fun”, but being able to create something special that your audience can chew on and appreciate as a sign of someone who really loves what they do, is just one of those little joys in life that you don’t see often enough. I guess we have to be the change we want to see in this world.
As to how the book will be released, it’ll be simple. I’ll release a free preview with the first world and chapter initially on Itch.io and on its own promotional website, and the finished product will be released commercially and charged for in PDF and ODT format — all in the public domain, of course. All the levels will be released non – commercially and will be free to download regardless of whether you purchase the book. Whether or not I’ll experiment with crowdfunding the book is to be seen, but practically, I don’t want to bother with all the marketing and stretch goals and live girls and all that, and I don’t even need the money.
I’m exciting to get into this world of digital publishing, the same as a hunter is excited for the day’s first blood. If I can test the waters of Neocities as a viable marketing platform, Itch as a viable bookshop, and whatever marketing company I can dig up from my local newspaper, then it will be an experiment that will teach me many things about the Internet in 2017. But, as with all things, it’s for the sake of doing the thing which makes it something worth doing, and having a great deal of experience in self – publishing grand documents, it will be done well indeed.